Items from 8000BC found during Hill of Down dig

Items from 8000BC found during Hill of Down dig

29 August 2018

AMONG the exciting discoveries made during an archaeological dig at the historic Hill of Down in Downpatrick is a Mesolithic flint tool which dates back 8,000 years BC, it has been revealed.

The cross-community dig adjacent to Down Cathedral has made significant findings since work started at the end of July, with the project supported by the EU’s PEACE IV Programme and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body.

The excavation has been conducted by archaeologists from the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork and the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen’s University Belfast, alongside volunteers from across the community. 

The unexpected discoveries have become a massive tourist attraction for the area with hundreds of visitors everyday from as far away as the United States, Australia, and Japan. NI Secretary of State Karen Bradley has also paid a visit to the dig.

Excavation director Brian Sloan described the dig as a “tremendous experience” for the excavation team and the volunteers who have taken part in the investigation. 

“We have discovered remains of the medieval abbey of Down, but have also retrieved a huge number of artefacts, ranging from pottery to metal work, stone moulds to pins and from ceramic tiles to animal bones and oyster shells,” he explained.

“All of this material will revolutionise our understanding of life in Downpatrick from the time of St Patrick onwards. In addition, we have found a Mesolithic flint tool that dates back to about 8000 BC which represents the earliest evidence for people living here in Downpatrick 10,000 years ago.”

Newry, Mourne and Down Council chairman Mark Murnin said he was delighted PEACE IV funding was approved to enable such a “fantastic opportunity” to delve into the shared history relating to St Patrick and his legacy.

He added: “This project has created huge interest amongst local people and visitors.  The local and regional press have been keeping people updated on the latest findings and we are amazed and delighted at the vast number of people stopping by on a daily basis.

“The discoveries from this excavation have inspired the interest and imagination of many and I commend Queen’s University for the professional manner in which they have led this excavation.” 

It has also been confirmed this week that the Queen’s University Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork will deliver a post-excavation lecture at Down County Museum in November.

The event provides a further opportunity to learn about the discoveries from the excavation after they have been analysed. All artefacts discovered during the excavation will be transferred to Down County Museum later this year.

Match-funding for the project, which is being supported by the local council, has been provided by the Northern Ireland Executive Office and the Department for Rural and Community Development in Ireland.